Sustainable fashion: How to embellish your knitwear

Fashionista with a conscience Kate McGuire helps us convert our old clothes instead of buying new ones. This month, let’s embellish our plain jumpers

by Psychologies


5 minute read

Knits are the ultimate hygge hug and, with a few detachable elements, you can take them from cosy to chic (and back again) to suit your mood.

After falling down the stairs and breaking her neck, Heidi Herkes was paralysed from the chest down. She now runs a personal style consultancy for women with physical limitations. ‘After my accident, I lost my identity and confi dence. I knew I was destined to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, but I didn’t want it to define me. I want people to see Heidi, not “Heidi in a chair”. Clothes were a huge part of that journey – finding the right styles and colours gave me the power to express the “new” me.

‘I love the vivid colour of this M&S jumper,’ says Heidi, ‘but the neckline looks a bit frumpy so I don’t wear it much.’

The fit was perfect so I created detachable, elasticated cuffs and epaulettes, allowing Heidi to style her jumper up or down, depending on how she was feeling.

I bought wide elastic to create the base of the slip-on cuffs and found the perfect Chanel-esque ribbons in my haberdashery heaven, VV Rouleaux. I cut the elastic so it was tight around Heidi’s wrists and sewed on the ribbon in the non-stretchy direction to allow for easy expansion, enabling Heidi to slide them on and position them over her jumper cuffs.

Unique like me

For the epaulettes, I made the base out of leftover elastic, covered them in ribbon and created button holes. Sewing gold buttons onto the shoulders means Heidi can button on her epaulettes to dial up her look, or display the buttons as they are.

‘I feel so glamorous!’ says Heidi. ‘The embellishments deflect perfectly from the neckline and are a real conversation piece. I love the fact that my jumper is now a one-off garment that feels very me.’

Clothes are never just clothes, they are part of our identity and self-expression and Heidi is testament to that. ‘It’s important to keep challenging yourself and be brave in your choices to build your self-worth,’ she says. Converting helps us push our boundaries and discover new ways of expressing ourselves in a sustainable way.

Tips for revitalising a tired wool jumper

Kate McGuire shares her dressmaking secrets...

● Turn a crew into a V-neck and sew ribbon on the cut edges to stop fraying.

● Cut up unwanted jumpers and make striking elbow patches.

● Add favourite parts of other garments – a shirt collar and cuffs, for example.

● Sew ribbon along seams, necklines and cuffs to add colour and interest.

Kate McGuire is a sustainable fashion activist and founder of the #conversion movement at convertedcloset.com